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"Six Corners" by Keith Huff, at American Blues Theater in Chicago through March 24. Pictured: Byron Glenn Willis and Lyric Sims. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

American Blues Theater Announces 2018-19 Season

The season will include contemporary plays and musicals and a short play festival.

CHICAGO: American Blues Theater has announced its 2018-19 season, titled “Home Sweet Home.”

“Benjamin Franklin wrote, ‘A home is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body’,” said artistic director Gwendolyn Whiteside in a statement. “Our Season 33 productions provide fuel for both as we explore American identity through one’s home over a century. We’re honored to share these spectacular talents.”

The season will open with Pearl Cleage’s Flyin’ West (Oct. 5-Nov. 3), about African-American female pioneers who took advantage of the Homestead Act and moved West to build new lives for themselves. Artistic affiliate Chuck Smith will direct.

Next up will be the return of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (Nov. 16-Jan. 5, 2019), the 17th anniversary production of a live 1940s radio broadcast of the classic holiday story, complete with Foley effects. Michael Mahler will provide music director, and Whiteside will direct.

Following will be Steven Dietz’s On Clover Road (Feb. 1-March 16, 2019), about a mother who meets with a cult deprogrammer in an abandoned motel in order to find information about her missing daughter. The cast will feature Whiteside and Philip Earl Johnson. Halena Kays will direct.

The season will continue with The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey (March 29-April 27, 2019), by James Lecesne, about the events surrounding a 14-year-old boy who goes missing in a small Jersey Shore town. Joe Foust will portray every character in the play. Kurt Johns will direct.

Next will be The Spitfire Grill (May 10-June 29, 2019), with book and music by James Valeq, and book and lyrics by Fred Alley. The musical, based on the film by Lee David Zlotoff, follows a parolee who starts a new chapter in a small town in Wisconsin and finds work as a server at Hannah’s Spitfire Grill. Malcolm Ruhl will provide music direction.

The programming will also include the Ripped Festival: Edition 17, featuring short plays by Chicago artists inspired by newspaper headlines.

American Blues Theater will also lead The Lincoln Project, adapted by Whiteside from James Still’s novel “The Heavens Are Hung in Black,” to teach 5-10th grade students in the Chicago Public Schools about Abraham Lincoln.

American Blues Theater, founded in 1985, develops and produces plays and musicals.

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